Category Archives: travel

3 Photos- Minneapolis

After diligently collecting photos from all the cities I visit for my 3 Photos project I have been very undiligent about posting them. After spending time in over a dozen cities this year I think it’s time to bring it back.

Each of us experiences space in a unique way. Everything we have done and seen leading up to our time in a new place sets up how we will interpret it.  I spent much of my teenage years visiting new places- but mostly BMX trails, skateparks and street-riding spots.  I could tell you where a great wallride or handrail is in Chicago, but have no idea about where to eat or what else to do. Then food became my obsession and each new city meant new places to eat! Even now when I visit a place like Pittsburgh, where I have been dozens of times, I see it in a new way depending on my most recent experiences.  I started this project to force myself to take a minute and evaluate my environment and the emotions they trigger.  Some are obvious, some are silly and some will only make sense to me, but I’m joyed to share them all with you.  Thanks for looking.

 

 

Double-decker, covered, bike parking in a city where the temperature dips below zero. Impressed.

 

 

Working my way west through Montana and North Dakota the buildings in towns gradually got bigger. But having the perspective of tiny towns in the West, Minneapolis felt like a big old town, not a city. But in a good way.

 

 

Pizza Luce. This photo may belong more in the Seattle-Minneapolis bike tour set because I had thought about this pizza so much while riding, but it was so crucial in my Minneapolis experience I have to include it here. Vegan pizza served by attractive women covered in tattoos: I was no longer in the rural US.

 

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Agreed.

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Following Le Tour and Why I Love the Norwegians

The view from a hill in Eidfjord, Norway when I was there in 2007.

Often I am indifferent about the Tour De France and road racing. I’m just not big on watching anything, really. But a giant tv with cable and free time has changed that this year. I wake up each morning and flip on the tv to catch the last hour or so. I’m actually learning racers names and teams! And watching the Norwegians kick ass has been a treat! I had the fantastic opportunity to visit Norway in 2007 when I went to Europe for the Norseman iron-distance race and Paris-Brest-Paris. 2011 is a ‘PBP Year’ as randos like to to say, and I gave serious consideration to getting out there again, but alas couldn’t make it.

Back to Norway and Norwegians. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the Norwegians are the nicest people I have ever met. I think this comes across in their post-race interviews; they are so stoked and happy without being arrogant (like that green jersey wearing guy). I went out a week early for Norseman and scoped out Oslo a few days on my own and then with my close friend Max who came out to crew the race.  Norwegians have this pride in being friendly that is apparent soon after your first conversation. For example at Norseman I missed the cut-off on the run to finish on the mountaintop and the organizer hugged me! Not like an ‘oh it’ll be okay’ hug, but a serious embrace! I’ll never forget that. They are like the Norwegian terrain, super rugged. But it’s as if that ruggedness has taught them what it is like to suffer so they balance it with softness. Their socialized medicine and anti-lawsuits government is pretty good proof, if you ask me.

As I sit here stoked on bike racing and Norway, I’d like to share some of my photos from that trip. Enjoy!

Norway loves bicycles

Even in 2007 Oslo had a bike-sharing program. We rode them all over the city including to the sculpture museum

Even rode the public bike on a public halfpipe! Community!

Oslo street riding

An exhibit about gay animals at the Natural History Museum. How cool is that?

Action Speaks Louder Than Words! Listen up, California people.

In Oslo there were a few totally vegetarian places including this buffet.

The world is beautiful.

We got to Eidfjord a day before the community center was open for racers to sleep in so we slept in a shed behind a school. This is the view out the window when we woke up. One of my favorite photos ever.

My photos are public if you’d like to see more of the Norseman race or exploring Norway. I don’t think we’re going to see any Norwegians on the podium at the tour (personally I’m pulling for Cadel Evans because of his mountain bike background), but their impression on the 2011 Tour is undeniable.  If you’re watching, who are you pulling for and why?

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Back on the saddle: Boggs 8hr mountain bike race

I did a bike race! Was a little burned out on racing for awhile there, but we worked a race into a 10-day road trip, which is the best way to do it, in my opinion. Last Thursday I headed up to Boggs for the Global Biorhythm 8hr/24hr race for the third year in a row. Two years ago Max and I did this race on a trip that included the Alta Alpina double century and it was my first ever solo 24hr mountain bike race. Time flies! Last year I went up solo and also raced 24hrs solo, again on single-speed, this time placing second. Stoked! Was not stoked on having to drive back to LA for work on that Monday though…

This year Max was up for the adventure as, was Mike. Since none of us have been racing we all signed up for the 8hr. Timed mountain bike races have a loop course that usually takes about an hour, with the start/finish in a campground. Simply, who ever does the most laps wins! The courese are technical, diverse and fun enough that it never feels like you are riding in circles.

After a fun road ride and vegan donut tour in SF/Marin on Friday, we headed north and got ready to ‘race’. I say ‘race’ because we were all in chill mode. Mostly. I will admit though that at registration I was SUPER tempted to race the 24 hour. Why not, right? I’m already here…but I remembered my coach’s lecture: “You do too hard of events and burn out and then stop running/riding!’ so I stayed in the 8hr race. Oh and by coach I mean my friend Jeff who happens to be a coach who happened to tell me that on a ride once.

Back to the race! At 11am the gun went off and we started the 2-mile climb to space riders out. I was racing a geared mountain bike for the first time in 3 years and spun and chilled. We all rode together till the single track forced us apart. The single track is in great shape there: flow-y, fast and fun. Having gears gave me a rest on the big climbs and let me punch  it a little more on the descents….

After five laps I rolled through our camp and Mike was chillin on the blanket as was our friend Al who also came up from LA for this race for the third year in a row. Max was sleeping in the van! Chill race for sure. An hour later I came through and Mike was getting a massage!  My goal was 8 laps, but I just couldn’t get my lap times fast enough to have time for the 8th. Oh well, hanging out, right? I headed out for a 7th and pushed a bit to get a feeling for where my fitness is. Not as bad as I thought it would be! Definitely didn’t feel strong where I normally do, but not horribly so.

Not racing single-speed was quite different:
-I got fatigued in the same way I do from road riding
-My butt hurt because I wasn’t standing for every hill
-I didn’t get that dread I usually would before a big climb because I knew I could just shift down
-I’d pedal in places I probably should have applied my single-speed coasting skills…

In the end it was a great time. I feel much better about my 1×10 bike, the tubeless tires, etc after spending 8 hours with it. I felt exerted, but not crushed. I don’t know what place I got because I raced Pro/Expert and probably didn’t place in the top half…

We spent the night at the race and woke up early to cheer on the solo 24hr racers. And yes, after a solid 8 hour sleep I was positive I made the right decision to not race the 24hr. We spend the week mountain biking some select spots along the coast and then we’ll be at the Grand Tour double century on Saturday. Yay summer adventures! Hope you are getting your stoke on wherever you are.  Thanks for reading!

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The Big Parade Staircase Walk

Hey everyone! First off, thank you for all of the awesome feedback from our Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson.  We are so excited about episode two, which should be done for tomorrow. Yay! Wait to you see Brian in Death Valley, it is truly amazing.
 
Today’s post is from an event I did in 2009, called The Big Parade Stair Walk. I am posting it now because 2011’s Big Parade is this weekend. If you are in the Los Angeles area I highly recommend you come out to some or all of this. Did you know there over 100 stairways in the City of Los Angeles that are maintained as travelways? This walk explores them over two days and is full of historical and cultural events within the walk. If you think you know LA well, you need to come to this and see an LA you had no idea existed. I’ll be out there one or both days, come say hello! See the schedule and make your plans.
 
 
 
On the Big Parade
Making the city our own
One stair at a time.
(thanks to Lisa for the haikus)

Photo galleries, thanks to Steve Matsuda, Day 1 and Day 2.

 

The Big Parade is a 45-mile, 2-day walk that covers over 100 staircases in multiple Los Angeles neighborhoods. Over 250 people walked varying lengths, while a core group of us walked the entire route and camped in the Music Box Steps Park Saturday night. We started in downtown Saturday morning at 7am and finished after 10pm at the Hollywood sign.
 
When I do an event like this, almost no matter how I describe it, the automatic interpretation is that is a purely physical endeavor. While completing this walk is no easy physical task, that is only a small component. Walking is so humanizing and seeing the sections of this beautiful city that are only accessible by foot was much more of a social and emotional experience.
 
When we got to the Hollywood sign after 10pm (had been walking since 7am), and looked down on the city we had traversed, I looked at my tired, worn-out friends and felt closer to them than I ever have. I’ve always said that times in our lives where you are fatigued, hungry and just plain worn-out is when you see most clearly. I felt such a love for the people I shared this experience with and for the possibilities available to us when we slow down and see what our environment has to offer us.
 
 
 
 
 

Is it political? Is there a campaign? Are we a group? These are some of the questions asked. But really, the whole idea stems from Dan Koeppel’s fascination with these stairs as public access ways. They are technically ‘streets’ and they are there to be used by people. The small budget came from Backpacker magazine, but almost all of the work and effort came from Dan and the people close to him. His love of staircases-and he has many reasons-drew other ambitious, interesting folks to him. No organization or group, board of directors, mission statement, official endorsements, etc, etc…just a love for what traveling by foot means to each of us. There are political, environmental, social and even historical ramifications from our walk, but none are ‘the’ reason we walked.  And that’s the beauty of this!  “Togetherness’ is so cliche and over-used, but this bringing people together- urbanites, explorers, athletes, artists, historians- is what this walk is about in my eyes.

Sunday night we reached the Hollywood sign about 40 hours after the main group had started- the 9 of us who camped out at the Laurel and Hardy park and walked the entire 45-mile route. Literally hundreds of people walked some part of the route, but this core group had been together for the entire 40 hours. But then, as the only person walking home from the Hollywood sign, I had a solitary hour and a half walk. It was nearing midnight, I had pain in my legs, feet and shoulders which made the other pain I was feeling all the more sharp. So many automobiles-closed off metal boxes-hiding people from the joys of feet on the ground exploring and feeling.  It made more angry about our dependence on automobiles not because of the danger they presented to me, but because of what the drivers were missing out on by being trapped in a car so often.

Celebrate, rejoice!
Our feet get us anywhere
Why bother driving?
 

Physical pain is a pathway to the pain one feels inside. Physical pain brings clarity. And this internal pain that you feel makes its way to the surface. Many of us have set up our lives to avoid both of these pains, but pulling it to the surface can be pure motivation and energy for changing what we see is wrong in the world. It is power!  So I encourage you to explore this pain and use your human-power to change the world. And when it is exposed and you feel vulnerable, know that you are not alone.

Thanks to everyone, Dan Koeppel especially, who helped plan and organize the walk and to those who came out and walked part of it. We are changing this city one step at a time.

 The tech numbers for the nerds!

Mileage: 44.90
Time: 26:48:06
Ascent: 24,188 ft
Descent: 23,340 ft
Ave Pace, Day 1/2: 1.6/1.7 mph
 

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What makes a race a race? – The Arizona Trail 750

You can follow my progress for the Arizona Trail 750 at http://trackleaders.com/azt -I’ll be wearing a SPOT tracking device so you can see exactly where I am on the trail at all times. The forum on bikepacking.net will also have information throughout the race.  My good friend Mike Szerszunowicz has been my partner in planning all of this madness and is racing the 300 mile version, so look out for him too!

 

It’s 2am and I’m still not packed to leave for the race tomorrow, but I’m not too tired yet and am itching to get some of my thoughts about this race on paper. Er, on the internets. There’s so much to this race that I can barely keep track of it myself, so attempting to explain it may be futile, but I’m gonna give it a go.

As I alluded to in my first post about this race, is it is self-supported. What does that mean exactly? I have to carry all of my own stuff. I can get water, food and even bike parts, if needed, along the route. I just cannot have any outside help, ie someone meeting me and handing me clif bars. Why? To level the playing the field. It’s a stark contrast to something like the BC Stage Race where you pay thousands of dollars for support along the course and food and a place to sleep when you are done with each day. Even the famous Leadville 100, which is no doubt a hard race, has support from race staff and personal crews to give you food and water and anything you might need. All you have to do is pedal your bike. In self-supported racing you have to find your own food and your own place to sleep.  It’s only you! If you have a mechanical that is unfixable you have to find your way back to civilization to get it taken care of.

750 miles and almost as many concerns

The Arizona Trail Race differs from other self-supported mountain bike races in a few ways. One is it has way more single-track, which is actually mountain biking. This is more fun, no doubt, but almost always slower. And because it is a multi-use trail there is a lot of hike-a-bike, sections that are unridable. I’ve heard stories of racers bringing extra shoes for the long hiking sections…
Speaking of hiking, the 750 version includes traversing the Grand Canyon on foot. While carrying your bike on your back. 23 miles. Why? National Parks do not allow bikes to be ridden off-road. And the giant hole that is the Grand Canyon is too big to ride around reasonably. Since the official Arizona Trail goes down and up, so does the race. I just got back from Chris’ house where he sewed up a waist band contraption to hold the bike up and against my hydration pack.

GPS- I’ve never used one. I’m nervous about following a red line for a week. I’ve some maps and a general idea of where I’ll be, but the GPS is the key.

Tubeless tires- I’ve some new tubeless tires which are nearly impervious to punctures, as long as they don’t fail. Awesome, right? But if they fail, that’s it. Outside of a bike shop you have to then resort to tubes. And in Arizona that means slime tubes. So, even though I’m running light tubeless tires, I’ve got to carry a pair of slime tubes.

Water!- The most important nutrient. There are waypoints on the gps files with water sources, but I’m still nervous about having enough and getting it when I need it. Having never been out there is a huge disadvantage.

Rack-less bag system- Racks are so 00’s.  Lighter and faster are bags that attach to your seatpost, handlebars and just about anywhere else on your bike you can strap some stuff down.

My set up

I’m riding a steel 29er hard tail with 2.2 tires. The biggest tires I’ve ever ridden! I’ve H-bars and a dynamo hub, and the SuperNova E3 Triple light. With the GPS mounted to the stem the front of my bike looks more like a space ship than a race bike.

Weight- Every extra thing you need to carry adds up. The winners of races like this go insanely light- all gear, tools, etc under 12 pounds or so. Bike touring folks probably have 30 pounds. I’m toward the light end, but not doing anything silly/ultra light.

Food- I’m bringing a tiny Trangia stove and hope to cook to 2 quick meals a day- oatmeal in the morning and ramen noodles with peanut butter for dinner. My cooking setup probably comes in at under a pound- but is still a luxury many racers go without. I will get food at towns on the few occasions I pass through them, but veganism definitely gives me more limitations than other racers.

And here I’m going to have to cut this post short! I’m running out of time and have a few other things to do- like file for an extension for my taxes and find my sunglasses in the explosion that is my room. But I have to address one thing, albeit inadequately: the why. Why do this? Here’s the simple answer: Being out in the world, moving forward, on your own is one of the most pure experiences one could have. Without getting too hippy or John Zarzan on you, it really shows you what being human is about. Emotionally and physically. And why race? Not just go out and ride? The pressure/eustress of a race lights a fire in me that pushes me more than I would otherwise. I love it! Which also explains only sleeping 2.5 hours two nights out. Owell!

I’ll try to post a photo of my bike set-up before I roll out. And updates to my twitter the few time I’m in cell reception, and I’ll ask my crew here who is receiving my SPOT updates to post to the Swarm! twitter, but that is not guaranteed. You can always follow the race in real-time at http://trackleaders.com/azt. And lastly, thank you to all of my GREAT friends who have come through and helped me in some way. HUGE efforts with my bike, my gear and well, me. It’s so appreciated and I’ll be thinking about each and everyone of you while I’m riding over the next 7-10 days!

 

 

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Car-free Commuting Adventure

I’ve postulated that the same reasons I love being car-free: the openness, interactions, realness, risk and adventure; are the same reasons most people don’t want to bike or ride public transit. If it’s hot, I sweat. If the road sucks, I feel every bump. It’s freeing, but also a reality that you can’t easily hide from by rolling up your windows, blasting music or turning on the AC, etc. Probably why people feel so damn safe in their car that they can’t imagine that they nearly killed you (and also why they get bent out of shape when you bang on their car!). This sense of safety may also partially explain why more than 25% of automobiles drivers take off after hitting a cyclist…

Anyway, I’ve got a little story about being car-free and adventure. It started Wednesday night with a super awesome gesture from Jack. Remember the $100 Craigslist Benotto I bought last year? The one I broke the cranks on. I lost a few chainring bolts so I swung by for some new ones. He went up to his elevated workspace and I noticed an exact replica of the Bianchi steel frame I rode for years as a fixed gear, raced 508 with on Team Bonobo and then broke shortly thereafter. He said it was a friend’s and was working on it quickly before he replaced my bolts. I was hanging out with his housemates, we’re all shooting the shit and he’s plucking away on this bike. Then I see him working on the Benotto. Finally. I was getting hungry.

Then he passes down my old, broken Bianchi and I reminisce. Ah, Go Vegan! and Converge stickers. Then he comes down with the other Bianchi that has all the Benotto parts on it! ‘Dude, that bike was sketchy, I couldn’t let you ride it. I thought you’d be stoked on the same bike you had before.’ So stoked!

 

The 'new' Bianchi with the Benotto components and the old, broken Bianchi. Thanks Jack!

 

 

We went and ate at Pure Luck and then I rode it the mile back to my house. Sweet, no more untightenable headset or sketchy, loose cranks! Is this bike now too nice to be my junker commuter?

 

Thursday- Work, Work, Ride to Airport

I’ve no qualm with packing my days tight. Thursday morning I woke up early to pack for my weekend in SF and was out the door by 830am to teach my 935am class. I ride to the Rapid bus on the new Bianchi. After class I have lunch and then a teacher training for my other job from 1230-330pm. Flight at 530pm, so just under an hour to go the 6 miles to the airport. I’ve ridden to LAX before and had just gotten done telling my co-workers how easy it is.  Earlier I had felt the cog slipping a little, but I thought it was just settling. It looked okay. Then less than a mile away it’s slipping again. A lot. I look closely at the cog and it’s totally stripping the hub! Shit. I was 5 miles from the airport, on the side of the road with a stripped cog. Basically I couldn’t propel the bike forward.

But wait, I have a flip-flop hub! I could just thread it onto the other side and hand tighten it and hope for the best? I give it a go but the locknut won’t fit. There’s nothing to hold the cog tight.

 

40 minutes to get 5 miles with a broken bike.

My phone says over an hour to walk and do public transit. I call Brian and Jenny, who live 3 miles from the airport, whose house I’ve used to drop my bike off when I’ve flown with the break-away bike and had to go straight to work. Neither are home. So I tighten the cog down on the non-stripped side the best I can. With no lock nut. Basically I can pedal but can’t apply back pressure to slow down or the cog unthreads. It’s too sketchy to ride all the way to the airport, since I can’t stop. If I leave my bike at the Greenline station for the weekend any part not locked would be stolen. I aim for Brian and Jenny’s house. The plan is to hop their fence, leave the bike in the backyard and run to public transit.

 

25 minutes to get 3 miles

I pull up and knock to see if their houseguest is there. No luck. Then out of nowhere Jenny’s brother Alec rides up! Hey man! As I’m explaining my predicament I get a txt that my flight is delayed 30 minutes. Sweet! We open the garage and weigh my options. Try to fix it? Leave it and go on foot? Then he points to a beaten up beach cruiser. Dude, just take that. Score.

 

40 minutes to get 3 miles- on a beach cruiser!

Within minutes I’m riding the madness of Century Blvd toward LAX. When I ride I take the lane, comfortably. On a beach cruiser on a sketchy, fast westside road is something else. I actually had people slow down and look at me, not with anger, but perplexity.  I am pedaling frantically while wearing a white button-up, nice jeans and dress shoes with these socks:

 

 

As I get close to the airport traffic slows, I wave to the security folks and cruise into Terminal One. I hop the curb and ride straight to the bike rack. Boom. Early. Possibly would have made the original flight time!

So my record stands: I’ve never missed a flight. Sure, I got lucky, but what is luck than just keeping options open and having Faith in Vagueness? Now I just need to figure out how I’m getting to work Tuesday morning…

 

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Transportation as training: riding from SLO to LA in one day

Just showing that it was cold enough to wear gloves!

Last Tuesday evening, as I sat in a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and wrote about my train ride and upcoming bike ride from SLO to LA, I could feel the sickness I had been fighting for days creeping up. I was in denial, but by the time I met up with Mike at the train station I knew it was upon me.  As mentioned, I ate vegan Thai and even though I brought him some, we were still hungry enough for post-dinner burritos. Carb loading? Not that it did any good because at 5am I awoke with a very unhappy stomach. Let’s just say there was no carb loading happening. Yeah. And my throat hurt! When the alarm went off at 6am I didn’t want to go anywhere! Lacy’s sister Taylor awesomely had let us crash on her couches and was up doing work while Mike and I hid under the covers talking about how cold it was out.

Back at my favorite coffee shop by 7am, we discussed Egypt and what to call the pumpkin chocolate chip baked good we were both eating (muffin? cupcake? does it matter?) while time passed.  How’s that saying go? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a questionable baked good and procrastination? Cool.

 

Mike 'Grip it and Rip it' Szerszunowicz stoked on dirt

 

We rolled out of SLO in sub-40 temps, under a clear sky. Mike’s longest ride to date was our 12-hour hangout fest, the OC 200k. He’s signed up for the Death Valley double century at the end of the month and thought a 210-mile ride would be good training. Outside of Oceano (aren’t we at war with them?) we were turned away from the normal route due to construction and instead of back-tracking (I hate back-tracking!!) we cut through a farm, pictured above. Fun.  The area is somewhat familiar to me because I rode SF-LA in Sept and also rode the Solvang double century out here six years ago (Matt Provost on fixed and naked mile!!).

 

Every town should have a mural of its place in the world. I wonder how many miss that the negative space is California!

 

We rolled into Guadalupe, a tiny little town that I love. I must really love it because I took 60% of my photos here and only one afterward. Ha. It’s at this point in the trip we are definitely having fun, but getting nervous about the time. See, we had hoped to leave at 7am. We left at 8am. I thought it would take about 14 hours and it took over 16. Three hours is a big deal because it’s the difference between home at 10pm and home at 1am. The latter ended up not being that bad.

 

Tortilla room in Guadalupe!

 

Most of the time we spent just chatting away about riding, life and some upcoming events we both have. We set tiny goals. A quick break in Lompoc at the Fresh and Easy (free coffee!) and then a meal in Santa Barbara.  In SB we swung by our friend Jim’s new shop, Cranky’s, which may be the first time I have seen FBM bikes next to Colnagos. Then we ate burritos. Then it got colder and we were getting a little worried. It was after 5pm and we were a hundred miles from home. My sickness wasn’t killing me, but it had me feeling colder than usual. Luckily Mike was on it! He took some big pulls and really kept us moving quickly.

 

I think this is the climb out of Lompoc.

 

The sun set and we rolled south. Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, familiar, but far-from-home places. I’ve ridden out here plenty, including the LA-SB-LA back-to-back ride I did a few summers ago. How does one ride all day? It’s not much different than existing. You are just on your bike and in someways it is comforting because with every passing minute you are closer to your goal. It’s more tangible than many goals in life! It’s not a secret that 9-5 work in an office is scary to me. When I’m asked, what do you think about on these long rides I respond with the same question about what people think about all week at work.

 

'Red? Where the fuck did you get that banana?' RIP, Mitch Hedberg. Chart from the store in Guadalupe.

 

There’s this part of the PCH in Ventura County where you are back on the coast after some inland riding. It’s so beautiful. By now it’s late at night and the pressure to get home has been replaced with a feeling of privilege to be out where we are.  The sky was full of stars, the waves were crashing against the beach and there wasn’t a car on the road to ruin it. Stoked.

The route down the PCH past Mulholland Drive, Leo Carillo, Decker Canyon and other familiar, often-ridden spots is usually accompanied by a southerly wind. Not this night. We had a slight headwind most of the time, but it wasn’t a killer. We just couldn’t stop too long because we’d get cold! Before too long we had turned inland and were on the 15-mile home stretch through urban Los Angeles.  Sasha had just gotten home from Pure Luck and made us burritos which were quickly devoured. I was too cold and tired to shower and fell asleep shivering. Apparently I was also too tired to realize that the window next to my bed was wide open.

I spent the next few days full-on sick, but am so glad this trip happened. I can’t recommend riding the California coast enough! Do it while you can. Before that California super storm comes and obliterates the whole state.

 

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The solution may be as simple as going from A to B

today I had the wonderful experience of  riding the train from Oakland to San Luis Obispo. I’m meeting up with my good friend Mike, who right now is on a train here from LA, and tomorrow morning we tackle the 200-mile ride back home.

My road bike dorkified with lights, fenders and giant seatbag

 

Travel in general, and trains specifically, are great for reflecting.  Staring off into the beautiful mountain ranges, with the sun in the background, I realized that 10 years ago I was living in Central America and planning for my first ever bike tour. I had just graduated college, was stoked on living life and had places to be.  So many new experiences were awaiting and I awoke every morning with an excitement for the future.

A lot of this excitement, in retrospect, comes from going. The simple act of getting from one place to another.  One of my best memories of Belize is the first view you have when you exit the airport. BAM! Another country. My first time in Latin America.  Ten years ago I also went to Chiapas for the first time and the bus ride through the mountains of Southern Mexico is still one of the most exciting things I have ever done.

 

Amtrak box I didn't have to pay for cause someone had left it! Just turn bars and wheel it in...

 

I don’t have a philosophy per se, but I did make the conscious effort about 10 years ago that my political focus was going to be food and transportation.  Why? Because everyone eats and everyone travels.  Both are inherent political acts (denying they are is political!).  And you know what? Both can be super fun! When my students complain about not having time to cook I ask them if they have time to spend with family. Or time to learn a valuable skill. If so, you have time to cook.  Recognizing that eating and traveling are political acts is one thing, making them fun and awesome is another.

So here I sit in my favorite coffee shop (which I have been to many times, though I often forget the name) 200 miles from home, stoked to ride back. Like my trips across the country, I’ve traveled the California coast by plane, bus, train, car and bike (would love to walk or kayak, get in touch if you’ve got ideas!).  Guess which is the most fun?

I get asked often to help people come up with training plans.  It’s hard for me because I hate exercise for the sake of exercise. I ran 10 miles last weekend in the Berkeley hills and I was struggling…then I realized I hadn’t run since the Calico 50k. Oops. I  had just forgotten to run.

 

My training advice is this:

Find physical activity you like.

Do it often.

Keep it fun.

Find unorthodox ways and places to do it.

Sign up for events that are over your head.

When it gets boring, find something else.

Now, unsurprisingly, I’m off to the local vegan Thai restaurant.  Whatever you are up to tomorrow, enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Burro Schmidt tunnel

The dirt road adventure to the tunnel

 

On our way out to the Ridgcrest 50k earlier this month we took a long-awaited detour to the Burro Schmidt tunnel. I’ve heard about this tunnel from Morgan probably every single time I’ve been out toward Death Valley. What’s the big deal? This guy named William Henry Schmidt, back in the early 1900’s, laid claim to some land with mining potential. There was a small problem though: A difficult to navigate ridge between his land and Mojave, where the local smelter was located. The solution? Dig a tunnel.

The view from Burro’s tiny house

He got started in 1906.  At first he hauled out the rock on his back. Then with a wheelbarrow. Eventually he built tracks and used a cart. And eventually there was no reason for the tunnel. But he kept digging. Almost entirely by hand.  He rarely used explosives and when he did they’d have such short fuses due to his frugality that he’d often be injured by the explosions.  The dude was notoriously cheap.  He patched his clothing with flour sacks (punk!).  This page estimates that he cooked 25,000 meals of pancakes and beans on his tiny stove.

Looking out the end of the 2000 meter (half mile!) tunnel

He dug for 34 years. Long after it was of any use.  He just became obsessed with the tunnel itself. And the digging. But he made it. The tunnel is straight for a long time and then takes a 90 degree right turn before reaching the other side. The view is outstanding. He never did haul anything through it, but he moved nearly 6,000 tons of rock. By himself.

Our crew in the bright post-tunnel sun

So on one hand you have a guy who spent his life digging a tunnel to nowhere. On the other you have a man with a dream who woke up every day and worked to achieve it. And he hung out with two donkeys (hence the nickname Burro) and ate pancakes and beans for most meals. Not a bad life if you ask me!  Often what we do feels useless, but if we are driven to do it and we are doing it that is something in itself.  What is purposeful is subjective and the pick-axe is in our hands! Get digging.

Burro gave us a lot to think about camping that night and running 31 miles the next day (more photos)

 

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